A UN report on water, released last week, has reiterated all the common truths about the use of water and painted a grim picture of the world’s future water situation.
Water is basic to life on earth, but its availability has always been taken for granted. Though this was right in the past, the scenario has drastically changed in the last few decades and the world is severely water stressed now. The UN report, based on extensive studies undertaken the world over, has issued dire warnings about the coming water crunch. It says that by 2025, about 3.5 billion people will live in water-scarce countries. India will be severely impacted. With 4 per cent of the world’s water resources, it has to support about 16 per cent of its population. The supply-demand imbalance will continue to increase and by 2030, India is likely to experience a 50 per cent deficit of water.
The UN report calls for a proactive policy of water conservation and its rational use by all countries. It identifies South Asia as a region to be badly affected in the coming years. India will have to pay special attention to its use of water. A good part of the country’s water resources are wasted. Much of the river water flows into the sea. A part of it can be conserved scientifically. All the rivers are polluted and this is making water unfit for consumption. It also poses a danger to all forms of plant and animal life that depend on river water. Almost the entire quantity of rain water goes waste in the absence serious efforts to conserve it through rain water harvesting methods. India will not be able to meet its water challenge even partially without making rain water harvesting compulsory and efficiently implementing a law for this.
Consumption habits have to change drastically. Overuse and wastage should be reduced and avoided. Better public awareness should be created for this. Exploitation of ground water has reached dangerous levels in most places. There should be strict restrictions on this. Agriculture accounts for the maximum use of water. Better technologies and practices should help in reducing the use of water in that sector. Industry is the second biggest user. There is scope for reducing use, wastage and pollution of water in the industrial sector. A comprehensive approach that includes sound policy and effective implementation is key to avoidance of future disasters related to water.